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Strength in unity: Women’s March brings millions together

You would think the politics of the last week would divide people. Instead, it brought over a million of women, men, and children of all ethnicities, religions, and economic statuses, together. No matter how I think of it, the feeling of awe is absolutely overwhelming. Did anyone else expect the movement to be this big? I knew it would be impressive, but the turnout blew my mind. I couldn’t remember when a group of people this large marched down the streets of Toronto with a simple purpose: gender equality and women’s rights.

Think about it: Millions of people got together to walk through their city of choice, protesting a government that doesn’t respect their bodies or their rights as a basic human being. That, my dear readers, is a beautiful thing.

In Toronto over 60,000 people marched through the downtown core, surprising skaters at Nathan Phillips square. Photos lit up social media using hashtags #womensmarch and #womensmarchTO, to spread messages of love and resistance. There were participants of all age groups, skin colours, and religious affiliations — all with their own independent voices. But, no matter the cause or the reason why someone joined the march, the overarching message was quite clear: “Love Trumps Hate” — and it always will.

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Laforest

Here are some of the highlights from the march in Toronto:

In Washington, people marched not only in support of women’s rights, but also to protest the new president Donald Trump. Over 200,000 of people attended (although numbers haven’t been officially confirmed), in addition to the slew of celebrity speakers. Here are some of the highlights:

Angela Davis, political activist: “The freedom and struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.”

Kerry Washington, Actress: “When you go back home tonight… and you feel like ‘Wow, there is an agenda at work to make me feel like I don’t matter, because I’m a woman my voice doesn’t matter, because I’m a person of colour my voice doesn’t matter, because I’m an immigrant, because I’m a member of the LGBTQ community, because I’m an old person, because I’m a young person… because I have a fucking voice, I don’t matter.’ You matter.”

Elizabeth Warren, Senator: “Yesterday, Donald Trump was sworn in as president. That sight is now burned into my eyes forever. And I hope the same is true for you, because we will not forget. We do not want to forget. We will use that vision to make sure that we fight harder, we fight tougher, and we fight more passionately than ever — not just for the people whom Donald Trump supports, but for all of America.”

“We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back! We come here to stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear: We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead! We will fight for what we believe in!”

Natalie Portman, Actress: “[Women] must seek leadership positions, and support other women who do the same. Until we make it normal to have at least half, if not more, of our leaders be female, we will be serving, and with our taxes financing, a government that believes it’s within their domain to make decisions for our future.”

America Ferrera, Actress: “The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance. We march today for our families and our neighbours, for our future, for the causes we claim and for the causes that claim us. We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war. He would like us to forget the words, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’ and instead, take up a credo of hatred.”

Scarlett Johansson, Actress: “President Trump, I did not vote for you. That said, I respect that you are you our President-elect and I want to be able to support you. But first I ask that you support me, support my sister, support my mother, support my best friends and all of all girlfriends. Support the men and women here today that are anxiously awaiting to see how your next moves may drastically affect their lives. Support my daughter who may actually, as a result of the appointments you have made, grow up in a county that is moving backwards, not forward, and who may potentially not have the right to make choices for her body and her future that your daughter Ivanka has been privileged to have.”

Bernie Sanders, Senator: “President Trump, you have made a big mistake. By trying to divide us up by race, religion, gender and nationality you have actually brought us closer together. Black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian American, gay or straight, male or female, native born or immigrant we will fight bigotry and create a government based on love and compassion, not hatred and divisiveness.”

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Laforest

Did you go to one of the Women’s Marches? Let us know how it went in the comment below! 

 

TTC focuses on customer service — and people are noticing

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has been working tirelessly to create and grow the transit system in Toronto, no easy feat when considering delays, traffic, and a constant stream of people trying to go from place to place.

Lately, TTC has been emphasizing their dedication to customer service — and guess what? Women’s Post is one of the groups noticing! It started with the little things, telling customers over the PA system to ‘have a nice day’ and giving consistent updates if there is a delay. Their efforts make the end-of-day commute just a little bit better. By communicating why a delay is happening and providing updates when the train suddenly stops or is slow, it lowers the rate of frustration for everyone and makes the commute much easier. Customer service is clearly a priority for the TTC and it makes a big difference when riding on the subway, or taking a bus or streetcar.

The positivity on the part of TTC staff could be, in part, due to the fact that the transit union was recognized with an award as one of Greater Toronto’s top employers. TTC CEO Andy Byford accepted the award, which was well-deserved. What makes the TTC such a great employer it their focus on service as their core objectives of their five-year plan. This service concentrates on their 14,000 employees, as well as their customers. Being part of the TTC union is one of the better jobs to have in Toronto and it is positive to see the transit company awarded for their efforts.

The TTC is moving ahead with construction plans to build more transit in as part of their five-year plan and has almost completed the Spadina extension. Amidst City of Toronto budget cuts, TTC works very hard to avoid being seriously affected by the reductions and continues to pursue their plan to make a better transit system in Toronto. It is not easy to maintain the current subway system, continue construction on various transit projects in the city, and keep the trains running smoothly — all the while being asked to reduce their budget by 2.6 per cent. The TTC achieves this goal though with careful planning and strong communication with their customer base. The Relief Line project is in its planning stages and officials are working hard to manage a host of public complaints while pushing forward to get to the next stages of actually building the downtown line. This project has been on the back-burner for several years and it is hopeful to see the TTC pushing through the red tape and working to get the blueprints approved for future construction.

Despite dealing with daily complaints, the TTC does achieve a lot of difficult goals and is on its way to building an efficient and intricate transit network in Toronto. Next time you want to whine about how slow the streetcar or bus is, remember those times when it is extremely cold and snowing heavily, yet the bus and subway still manages to deliver you home safely. Instead, why not try being grateful for how hard the TTC is working to make sure Toronto gets the transit system it deserves!

Woman of the Week: Emily Ridout

Sometimes an idea just comes to you. In fact, it calls to you — and it can’t go unanswered.

That’s what Emily Ridout said when Women’s Post asked her why she started 889Yoga, a yoga and wellness studio on Yonge Street in Toronto. For her, it was about bringing the practices she learned during her travels to the city she loved.

“Toronto didn’t have that yet. It was missing and we wanted to create that in our own city. A place where people could feel very comfortable to go on this path to healing and returning to who they really are, in a space that was clean, beautiful, and accessible”

889 is a quaint little studio located near Rosedale. The storefront is full of essential oils, juices, journals, candles and teas, in addition to props used for yoga, pilates, and meditation. As you head upstairs to the studio, the smell of white tea is unmistakeable. Class participants are free to enjoy a glass of water or cup of tea before and after their session. The studio itself is bright with lots of windows that allow the sun to shine in. It’s the kind of place that automatically relaxes you and breaks down barriers.

The studio has a very loyal following. As one member said, once you take a class at 889, “you’ll fall in love with it”. Newcomers are welcomed with a smile and instructors are patient with everyone, no matter their skill level. The ultimate goal is for people to feel comfortable and at peace — and in that, 889 is very successful.

“We are a beginner/intermediate studio,” Ridout said. “If you haven’t tried it, it’s very welcoming, kind, forgiving, and that is what we set out for. “

Ridout comes from a family of entrepreneurs, but decided to venture into academics instead. She studied commerce with a minor in French. Eventually, she dropped commerce and focused all her energy on linguistics.

Her first job following her graduate degree was with Butterfield and Robinson, a company that designs and runs tourist expeditions, mainly involving hiking and biking around the world.  Ridout started as a receptionist, eventually applying for a temp job in operations working on trips outside of Europe. Shortly after she became Expeditions Trip Manager, helping plan and coordinate trips, as well as acting as communication liaison with the guides overseas.

Ridout loves to travel herself. She spent a year in Spain learning the language and culture. It was actually in Barcelona where she took her first official yoga class, mostly as a way to make friends and use her beginner Spanish. At the same time, her sister Christine was also introduced to yoga during her travels to California and Los Angeles. They eventually got together and realized a passion had been ignited.

The goal wasn’t just to create a yoga studio, but rather a place of wellness, where Torontonians could experience what the Ridout sisters experienced during their travels. What’s unique about this venture was that neither sister was a trained instructor — just entrepreneurs with a vision.

“We wanted to own a business, run the business, and create a space where people can heal, do yoga and be at peace. Look at themselves from an internal point,” she said. “And we did it! We hired teachers. We hired healing professionals. We had no experience at all. It was just a calling. “

And that was about 10 years ago.  Since then, 889 has grown immensely, while still maintaining its foundation — to inspire happy, healthy, and peaceful lives. Ridout likes to say the studio is a reflection of how both sisters have evolved. They helped create and plan a 200-hour Living Yoga School, a program that transforms yoga lovers into capable instructors. Both sisters have taken this course and are now able to teach yoga as well as meditation classes.

They have also added a storefront that sells environmentally-conscious and Canadian-focused products and are teaching a number of private classes for moms and other women that combine essential oils with meditation and breathing work. Ridout is also designing a digital platform for these programs, especially for working moms with little time to come to the studio.

Her biggest piece of advice to women entrepreneurs is to simplify, and then simplify some more. “Keep the offer as simple and clear as you can. If you think its simple enough, break it down again. It makes it simpler for people to understand and get on board.”

Ridout also wants women to focus on something they are passionate about, something that lights you up when you talk about it. “There is enough room in the world for us all to do what we believe in and do what we love. If someone else is doing it, or doing something similar, there will always be your authentic version of it.”

“If you believe in something, create it and sell it. Don’t get discouraged by people who are already “doing” your idea, or something similar, or by a fear that you’re not good enough.”

Ridout has three children, who she says help keep her present and joyful.  She is currently working through “May Cause Miracles”, a 40-day guide to reflection, change, and happiness by Gabrielle Bernstein, for the second time.

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City council votes to support tolls

“You rarely have to ask permission to do the right thing.”

This quote comes from an open letter released Tuesday morning, with the signature of five different Canadian mayors attached to it. The letter calls for more municipal power to create city revenue, so that municipal leaders can match infrastructure funding provided by the provincial and federal governments.

In essence, Canada’s biggest cities, including Toronto, were asking for the power to do their part to expand and grow.

This sentiment was much needed prior to the city council meeting Tuesday, where councillors discussed how they would be paying for city services for the foreseeable future.

After much debate, city council approved staff recommendations by staff to generate revenue by using various taxes and tolls. The implementation of tolls is a brave new step for the city – proof that politicians understand the need to create revenue and alleviate congestion on city roads.

Toronto Mayor John Tory proposed the use of tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Express over a month ago, and since then it has received a mostly positive response. The money would be directly funnelled into maintaining and funding transit-related projects, which works to both alleviate congestion on roadways and expand Toronto’s transit network.

City council ultimately voted in support of the mayor’s proposal. Nine councillors opposed the motion.

These tolls, which could be implemented as early as 2020, would affectively alleviate congestion, unlock gridlock, and help pay for the much-needed transit network being built throughout Toronto. A win-win scenario.

Council also agreed to look into a 0.5 per cent levy on property taxes, a four per cent tax on hotels, up to a 10 per cent tax on short-term rentals like Airbnb, and harmonizing and/or increasing land transfer taxes. The city will also be asking the province for a share of the harmonized sales tax.

The debate on tolls will continue in the new year, when city staff will present options for implementation, including cost.

City Manager Peter Wallace made it clear in his presentation on the city budget that council had to approve of some of the proposed revenue tools — if they didn’t, they should be prepared to provide solutions to the $33 billion in unfunded projects the city is undergoing.

“I think it comes down to what level of public service does city council want to endorse,” Wallace said bluntly. He also made it clear that by voting to take tolls to the next level, council can rest assured that city staff will proved thoughtfully.

Other councillors were not so thoughtful. Many ignored the fact that people pay for the use of public transportation and that user fees are popularly used in large cities. However, at the end of the day, even the wary councillors understood the need to make a firm decision or risk being left with a large revenue gap to fill.

And to that brave majority, Toronto thanks you.

Executive Committee gets a toll awakening

Toronto’s city councillors got a rude awakening at Thursday’s lengthy Executive Committee meeting. City staff gave a presentation on revenue tolls, saying that it is necessary that council approve at least a few of their reforms — increase property taxes, sales taxes, vehicle tax, or user fees like tolls and public transportation fares. If they didn’t, well, they would have to find more cuts.

Toronto currently has $33 billion worth of unfunded projects. As city manager Peter Wallace said during his presentation, if executive council or city council decides not to approve the use of tolls or increase property taxes, then they better be ready to propose reductions in the capital spending.

“Toronto, a $12 billion enterprise, does require a long term, vigorous, and consistent framework,” he said. “Cutting costs on an annual basis doesn’t work long-term. Toronto needs a long-term investment and revenue strategy.”

Wallace spoke candidly about the need to choose, and implement, a revenue plan. If city council is not willing to increase taxes, then tolls are the only option.

Mayor John Tory announced last week that he would be supporting the implementation of tolls as a source of revenue for infrastructure and transit-related projects. His proposal: a $2 flat-rate toll on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. With this toll, the city would accumulate approximately $166 million in extra revenue. If the rate were to increase to $3.90, comparable to the cost of a transit fare, the city would make $272 million.

“If you want to live in a city in five or 10 years that is so much worse for congestion, then we shouldn’t have this discussion,” Tory said at a press conference prior to the vote. “But I’m not prepared to be that kind of mayor and when most people think about it, they know we need to build the transit and they know it isn’t free.”

“If anyone is opposed to road tolls, they have an obligation to tell us what they would do instead.”

There seemed to be a lot of differing opinions, but at the end of the day, the executive council saw the light and voted to send the toll proposal to city council for further consideration. The fees/cost of toll implementation will be decided at that point. Executive Committee also voted to ask the province for permission to impose a hotel and short-term accommodation rental tax and an alcohol tax. Council is still adamant not to increase property taxes by more than half a percent.

Tolling Toronto’s major roadways has a lot of benefits, and as was proven by the Mainstreet Research poll conducted last week, most of Toronto’s residents are comfortable paying a fee to use the DVP and Gardiner. The hope is that tolls will not only collect the much-needed revenue to build more transit, but it will also alleviate congestion and gridlock by encouraging car pooling and transit usage.

At the same time, the revenue tool discussion is always a hard one to have. An election is forthcoming, and no city councillor, not to mention mayoral candidate, wants to be the person to say “hey, we are raising taxes and we are making you pay to drive to work.” Toronto’s current mayor seems to have put the politics of re-election aside and was brave enough to push forward a proposal that may not be all that popular among his fellow councillors. And for that, Women’s Post commends him.

All I can say is that I hope the rest of council realizes that Toronto is in a pickle. The city needs money and it needs to build transit and infrastructure. The reality is that you can’t do one without the other.

New Mainstreet Research poll shows Toronto crazy for tolls

There has been a lot of criticism following Toronto Mayor John Tory’s new proposal to toll the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. But, what do Torontonians really think? A recent poll published by the Transit Alliance, a non-political organization that works with people in the transit and infrastructure industry, shows that over 50 per cent of Toronto residents actually support the use of tolls.

The poll, which was conducted by Mainstreet Research on Nov. 25, surveyed residents from all 44 wards in Toronto to find out if they supported tolling major roadways to pay for infrastructure and transit. What they found was an overwhelming endorsement of the mayor’s proposal. Sixty-five per cent of Toronto respondents said that tolls were the preferred source of revenue compared to increasing property taxes or introducing a sales tax.

This statistic was further broken down into regions: 72 per cent in the downtown core, 64 per cent in North York, 62 per cent in Scarborough, and 57 per cent in Etobicoke.

When asked specifically about tolls, respondents across the board said they would be supportive of implementing them on the DVP and Gardiner.

The question was: “Proponents of road tolls for the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway say road tolls would force non-city of Toronto residents to pay their fare share; critics say road tolls are an unnecessary tax hike. Do you approve or disapprove of introducing tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway to pay for transit and infrastructure?

Support for tolls was the highest among downtown residents, with 70 per cent of respondents approving — including 52 per cent strongly approving — of the revenue sources. Residents of Etobicoke and Scarborough were less supportive of tolling, at 61 per cent and 68 per cent support respectively — still relatively high within the margins.

Only a third of Toronto residents approved the use of property tax increases, and even less supported the use of a sales tax (22 per cent).

While there are a number of critics that believe tolling to be an unfair tax on those living within the 905 region, this poll shows that even those living in Etobicoke understand the need to create revenue for better transit and infrastructure. The city needs to grow, and if the choices are between an increase in taxes or a toll on drivers, Toronto has made it clear that tolls are preferable.

If there is this much support throughout all the wards within the city, hopefully the mayor’s proposal will soar through council and Toronto can finally start to accumulate the funds it needs to continue developing transit and infrastructure throughout the GTHA.

Mainstreet Research surveyed a random sample of 2,280 Toronto residents, calling a mixture of landlines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.05 per cent.

Mayor John Tory right on the money with revenue tools

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced Thursday that he would be proposing the use of tolls and a hotel tax to create extra revenue for transit and infrastructure projects in the city. Prior to that announcement, a report was released by the Munk School at the University of Toronto indicating the need for a multi-tax system to pay for services. The conclusions of the report back up Tory’s decision to actively search for more revenue tools to help pay for the much-needed transit system being built in the city.

The report was written by Harry Kitchen, a professor in the economics department at Trent, and Enid Slack, director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance and a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs. They argue that property taxes, user fees, and transfers from other levels of governments have remained unchanged as large cities continue to grow and expand. This is unsustainable and larger cities in Canada must adapt.

The authors’ argue that decisions on public spending need to be linked with revenue decisions. This is what the mayor was trying to say in his speech on Thursday — that Toronto can’t afford to keep building and providing better service unless there is a way to pay for this growth.

The report also makes mention of services that benefit people across municipal boundaries like roads. While the report suggests transfer of responsibility to the province, sometimes that isn’t possible. Tolls, for example, would be a good compromise, allowing people who often travel into the city on a daily basis to contribute in a way besides property taxes.

In terms of the property tax, something Mayor Tory refuses to increase by more than half a per cent, the authors’ say it’s a good way to raise revenue for infrastructure, but that a mix of taxes is recommended. Property tax is also more expensive to administer compared to income or sales tax. “The property tax is relatively inelastic (it does not grow automatically as the economy grows), highly visible, and politically contentious,” the report reads. “It may therefore be insufficient to fund the complex and increasing demands on local governments.”

“A mix of taxes would give cities more flexibility to respond to local conditions such as changes in the economy, evolving demographics and expenditure needs, changes in the political climate, and other factors.”

The report suggests charging user fees for services as often as possible, as under-pricing can result in over-consumption. Tolls were specifically mentioned as an example of a user fee that can be used on a major highway or arterial road running into a big city. While high-occupancy tolls, which charges vehicles for using a specific lane, can be effective on big highways, it’s much more efficient to toll the entire roadway.

Revenue collected from the tolls in place on the 407 in 2011 earned the provincial government an extra $675 million. The proposal set forth by Tory indicated an extra $200 million in revenues with a $2 toll charge on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. The other benefit is that it will reduce congestion and unlock gridlock while creating funds that can be dedicated for transit.

Other options presented in the report include a parking charge, an increase in personal income and sales tax, a fuel tax, hotel tax, and vehicle registration fee. The conclusion seems to be by increasing/implementing a number of these revenue tools, it won’t affect a singular demographic to harshly while still generating funding for a large Canadian city to grow.

It looks like our mayor was right on the money, so to speak.

Mayor John Tory proposes tolls for DVP and Gardiner

The city of Toronto has finally clued in — if you want change, you need to be willing to make the unpopular decision to pay for it. As the mayor said in a speech Thursday afternoon, “If we are to achieve those goals we have to acknowledge that things we need, from transit to affordable housing, are not free. Pretending otherwise is not responsible and it’s not fair to the people of Toronto.”

Mayor John Tory chose to announce a new proposal to find much-needed revenue to help pay for the new transit network being built in the city at a luncheon at the Toronto Region Board of Trade Thursday afternoon.

What was this exciting solution? It was tolls.

Tory is proposing a $2 single-use toll to use the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. This will bring in an approximate $200 million of extra revenue that can be used specifically for infrastructure. This would be a tax on everyone, whether or not they live in the city or not. This will ensure that those who work in the city also contribute to its growth.

“People say that Toronto’s population is approximately 2.8 million. That’s true, at night, when the people who live here are home sleeping,” said Tory. “But by day, the number of people in this city goes up dramatically with all the people who come to work or to visit, all the while using the services paid for by Toronto taxpayers.”

The details of the proposal are still unknown. It will be presented to executive committee next week along with all the other options for revenue tools. The city has to find about $33 billion over the next 20 years to fund capital projects, despite provincial and federal aide.

Mayor Tory has said he will not be considering vehicle registration tax or a parking levy. Two other forms of revenue were proposed during the speech, including a half per cent levy on property taxes and a mandatory hotel tax at all Toronto hotels and short-term rentals like Airbnb.

During a press conference following the speech, the mayor said that doing nothing is not an option. The $2 cost, as well as the functionality of the tolls, will be up for discussion at city council in the upcoming months. Assuming city council sees the value of tolls, Tory hopes to see it implemented as of 2019.

TTC hikes fares by 10 cents, needs investment from city

Last night, the TTC board approved a 10-cent fare increase for tokens, reducing their shortfall for next year’s budget to about $61 million. As Toronto Transit Commission CEO, Andy Byford, emphasized during his presentation, the board had very few choices. A fare increase was an inevitable and unfortunate necessity.

Cash fares will remain the same, but the cost of a token or a PRESTO single ride will increase to $3. A monthly Metropass will go up to $146.25 for adults and $116.75 for post-secondary students. Cash and ticket prices for seniors and students will also increase by 10 cents.

The change will be effective as of January 2017, although the board did pass a second motion saying they will recommend freezing fares in 2018.

The TTC will now have to turn the budget over to the city budget committee, who will then decide whether to approve the budget with the 2017 shortfall. The fare increase will result in an extra $27 million for the transit agency. That, in combination with a number of efficiency cuts, has already lowered the shortfall from $230 million to $61 million. By approving the budget Monday, the TTC board is saying there is no other way to cut the budget. They have done everything they can without increasing fares by an even more substantial amount or without cutting services.

The TTC receives a very small subsidy compared to other North American cities — 90 cents per rider. Vancouver’s subsidy is $1.89 per rider and Calgary is $1.69. York Region, whose transit network is much smaller, has a subsidy of $4.56. Without more funding, there is absolutely nothing the TTC can do but increase fares.

As much as city council is against raising property taxes, it was clear that concerned transit users are fine with it. Most wanted all residents to contribute, whether it was through tolls or property tax, so that seniors and low-income families don’t have to walk across the city to get to work because they can’t afford public transportation. Raising property taxes was actually a suggestion given to the board by a Toronto resident.

Byford has done all he can do in terms of finding efficiencies, cutting the budget by another 2.6 per cent for the second year in a row. During a time where the TTC is working with the city to build more transit and improve service, this is not a time for cuts.

Now, it’s the city’s turn to take this budget and commit to investing in public transportation. Residents have said they are willing to contribute through taxes, and there are other forms of revenue such as tolls that can be used to help decrease the shortfall, so let’s run with it! It’s time to seriously invest in transportation, especially if Toronto has any hope of completing our integrated transit network.

‘Ride responsibly’: CondomTO campaign winners are announced

What would you want to see on your condom wrapper? How about ‘wrap your willie’  or ‘no glove, no love’? The possibilities are truly endless!

Cue Toronto — the city that likes to keep up with the trends. Toronto not only has it’s own condom designs, but also holds a contest so that residents can design their own. This year’s winners of the CondomTO contest were recently announced by Toronto Public Health. Over four hundred people submitted condom designs, and only 10 finalists were chosen. The top four condoms will be passed out at various health centres in the city, and the two top-choices will receive a cash award, and a year’s supply of their condoms. They will also get to choose a health organization to donate their condoms too.

The judging process was really serious, and focused on the quality of design, originality, and a focus on themes relevant to Toronto. Because that’s what everyone looks for in a condom, am I right?!

There were two separate “categories” with a winner and a runner up in each one. Here are the best designs:

Put It On Toronto by Diane Adams. Photo provided from condomTO, Toronto Public Health.
Put It On Toronto by Diane Adams. Photo provided from condomTO, Toronto Public Health.

The Open Grand Prize winner, Diane Adams, is a graduate of Seneca College’s graphic design program and won with a design that featured ‘put it on Toronto’. Adams has over 15 years’ experience in graphic design and has worked for Rogers Communications, Kia Motors, and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ride responsibly by Serge Leshchuk. Provided from condomTO, Toronto Public Health.
Ride responsibly by Serge Leshchuk. Provided from condomTO, Toronto Public Health.

The Open Runner-up, Serge Leschuk, a social media strategist and content creator in Toronto, designed a condom that focused on Toronto transit saying ‘condomTo- ride responsibly’. Leschuk is self-taught in design, writing, and video production.

No transfers by Andrea Por. Provided from condomTO contest, Toronto Public Health.
No transfers by Andrea Por. Provided from condomTO contest, Toronto Public Health.

The Student Grand Prize was won by Andre Por, an advertising and graphic design student at Humber College. She designed another transit-inspired condom that focused on the design of Toronto’s subway transfers to demonstrate how condoms help stop the transfer of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). Por is a previous Fine Arts graduate from Queen’s and began her Graphic Design diploma in 2015.

Condom LuberJack by Janine Thomas. Provided from condomTO, Toronto Public Health.
Condom LuberJack by Janine Thomas. Provided from condomTO, Toronto Public Health.

The student runner-up, Janine Thomas, is a fourth year student in the Bachelor of Design program at York-Sheridan and designed a Canadian-themed condom that said, ‘cover your lumber, Jack’. Thomas is a fourth year student and has a passion for typography and dogs.

A condom contest is a stellar idea for Toronto, a city known for it’s rising STI rates (isn’t that what every city wants on its resume?). But, why stop there. Wouldn’t it be great if Toronto also had a design contest for tampons or pad wrappings? It’s the same region, so why not go there! It would be a great way to dismiss the stereotypes and stigma associated with the act of menstruation. Plus, a little added humour does wonders for the PMS.

Women’s Post hopes CondomTO continues to host this contest on an annual basis. Sexual health is something that is not taught enough, and using fun designs on condoms is a great way to encourage its use. Plus, they are just hilarious. Who knows what people will come up with next year. Until then, have fun, but remember ‘cover your lumber, Jack’, okay?